Psychological models of chronic pain (CP) highlight cognitive-processing biases (ie, attentional biases, interpretation biases, and attentional control) as pivotal processes that uniquely and synergistically impact the development and maintenance of CP. Very few studies explore multiple cognitive biases, and no studies have examined these 3 processes together in a CP sample. Furthermore, there is a lack of research investigating the relationship between these cognitive processes and pain-relevant variables (eg, pain intensity and pain catastrophising). The current study aimed to (1) compare attentional biases, interpretation biases, and attentional control in people with and without CP, (2) explore their interrelationships, and (3) explore their association with pain-related variables. Seventy-four participants with CP and 66 without pain volunteered. Participants completed a visual scanning task with eye tracking, a recognition task, and a flanker task. Traditional and Bayesian analysis indicated no effect of pain status on cognitive-processing biases. All participants, regardless of pain status, demonstrated attentional biases towards pain on some indices of early and late attention, but not interpretation bias or attentional control. There was weak evidence of associations between attentional biases, interpretation biases, and attentional control. Pain intensity was significantly correlated with interpretation biases, and follow-up analyses revealed people with high pain intensity demonstrated an interpretation bias towards pain significantly more than those with low pain intensity. Findings suggest that attentional biases towards pain are ubiquitous, but for people with moderate-to-severe pain, interpretation biases may have a role worthy of further research.
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